HARARE - Zimbabwe has remained one of the most repressed economies in the world in the past decade due to rampant corruption and government mismanagement, according to the latest Index of Economic Freedom.
The index — published annually by the Wall Street Journal and think tank the Heritage Foundation — judges economic freedom on four key pillars: rule of law, limited government, regulatory efficiency and open markets.
People in economically free societies such as Hong Kong (1), Singapore (2) and New Zealand (3) among others earn incomes that more than twice the average levels in all other countries and they live longer too, according to the report.
Ranked at number 175, only ahead of three countries Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, Zimbabwe is described by the report as “one of Africa’s poorest and most repressed” economies in the world.
The Index revealed that lack of property rights, reflected most vividly in a land redistribution programme that gutted the agricultural sector, has suppressed entrepreneurial activity.
“A rigid labour market and the many State-owned enterprises’ lack of transparency create a hostile investment climate. These problems are compounded by the arbitrary implementation of taxes and regulations, which encourages graft and cronyism and leaves individuals and firms trying to operate in the private sector at the mercy of government bureaucrats and politicians,” read part of the report.
Zimbabwe, which has been ruled by one of Africa’s longest — serving leaders Robert Mugabe — who has been in power since 1980 — was also ranked number last in Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of economic freedom.
Critics say the country has suffered a downward spiral of increasingly erratic and often predatory governance since independence from Britain nearly 36 years ago.
In March 2013, voters approved a new Constitution to curtail presidential powers, but in July, Mugabe and his Zanu PF party was controversially re-elected to his seventh five-year term since the consolidation of his personal power in 1987.
However, despite election promises of 2,2 million jobs, better lives and revival of the country’s moribund economy, poverty levels in Zimbabwe have reached alarming proportions, with a recent authoritative survey revealing that in some areas of the country as many as 96 percent of villagers live on less than a dollar a day.
According to the Zimbabwe Poverty Atlas for 2015 (Atlas) — a research carried out by Zimstat, the World Bank and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) — areas such as Nkayi in Matabeleland have a shocking poverty prevalence of 96 percent.